Nintendo is getting weird with gaming again. How weird? Well, the company’s new Ring Fit Adventure game for Nintendo Switch wants you to have a workout. You know, putting down the energy drinks, stretching your limbs out and actually breaking a sweat.
Since this is such an intimate and personal game — it reads your heart rate and guesses how many calories you burn — I should explain a little about how I came to this title.
I just turned 35 and finally jumped into the world of biometric tracking and working out. So, as I strapped the left Switch Joy-Con around my left thigh and snapped the right Joy-Con into the actual ring, I also had an Apple Watch around my left wrist and felt like the target audience for this device.
So, take my experience with a grain of salt. I'm one of the many folks who have a gym membership but still needs to whip himself into better shape and doesn't have a trainer.
After about a week's worth of playing Ring Fit Adventure (spread out over a few weeks), I've come to see it as a pretty neat way to get in a good workout. It won't replace my normal workouts, as it requires more space than I have regular control over, but it's a pretty neat way to break a sweat and have a fast workout.
Ring Fit Adventure: What's in the box?
The only way Ring Fit Adventure actually works is with its two accessories — the Ring-Con and Leg Strap — which you slide your Joy-Cons into, much like how Nintendo Labo expands your controller's abilities. The Ring-Con is a flexible hoop with two pads for pushing and pulling the ring in and out, two of the most basic actions you perform in the game.
This part, for me, worked amazingly. I saw less-than-perfect success with the Leg Strap, however, which sometimes required readjustment after I ran in place with the band on. I did my best job of keeping the strap placed in the middle of my thigh, as on-screen graphics explained. It wasn't detrimental to my gaming, thankfully.
Getting set up
As I booted up Ring Fit Adventure, it walked me through a series of instructional windows that highlighted how little I had thought this out. My bedroom, where I had intended to test this game out, didn't have enough vertical space for a couple of the tasks, thanks to a low-ish ceiling.
And I didn't have enough carpeted space to do one of the knee-to-chest exercises comfortably, either. So after my first level, I set the game aside until I could take over the living room.
Figuring out how to use the Ring-Con as a controller took surprisingly little time, though the rotate-to-select mechanism still doesn't feel perfect for me. I also stopped squeezing in the Ring-Con to pick a choice and moved toward using the X button on the attached Joy-Con instead.
Having trouble remembering to work out? You can set alarms to use Ring Fit Adventure, but those only appear on the Switch.
An exercise in role-playing
The core of Ring Fit Adventure is an obstacle course-style adventure, where you're a budding exerciser who meets a glowing, talking ring (named Ring), who enlists your help to stop the evil Dragaux, who is menacing a town by demolishing houses. Your nemesis doesn't seem too creepy, though, as he's a giant dragon in a black mesh singlet.
Making matters more jovial, Dragaux and Ring both make the silliest of jokes. I don't know why Dragaux would think a "pain smoothie" is threatening, or why Ring challenged me to hit a baddie with "a smoothie blend of kale… and PUNISHMENT!" but these chuckles made Ring Fit's energetic adventures all the more tolerable.
To find Dragaux and dish out these "pun-ishments," you'll need to sweat. Your road to success begins with running in place to move your character down a virtual road. All along, you'll be pushing and pulling on the Ring-Con's padded grips to suck up coins, blast obstacles and float into the air to cross chasms.
While all that sounds fun, it's one heck of a fast way to break a sweat using a multitasking workout. I felt the burn even more when I got to baddies, as you need to do reps of exercises that do damage, which you select from a menu, just like when you'd pick attacks to fight goons in a more traditional RPG.
You select the exercises you perform to attack your enemies, with options including squats, overhead pressing into the Ring-Con and the chair pose. Exercises come in the form of two sets of about six to 12 reps apiece, and you perform an abdominal press to defend yourself. Each rep summons a spectral kick or punch, matching what your body is doing (i.e., squats allowed for ghostly kicks). Soon, just like in an RPG, you get new exercises and attacks, and discover a color-coded system to deal more damage to dish out higher damage.
I managed to do about one to two levels per workout, stopping once I felt like I needed it. Ring Fit Adventure's good about politely prodding you to take a break, so you don't feel bad about not being a marathon man or woman yet.
Ring Fit Adventure gives you a synopsis at the end of each exercise that shows you the time spent working out, though for me it seemed a little short (time spent paused might do that). So while Ring Fit Adventure says I exercised for 12 minutes and 21 seconds, and burned 68 calories, my Apple Watch knew better, and said I'd been going at it for 29:30, with 326 calories burned.
If you don't want to rock with Ring and do battle with Dragaux, you can still feel the burn in Ring Fit Adventure's other modes. Those include custom exercise routines, where you can track your performance against those of your friends, or — if you want a little more fun — there are minigames.
I enjoyed Crate Crasher, where you squeeze in the Ring-Con to blow gusts of wind at towers of boxes. It's reminiscent of the minigames between matches in Street Fighter II, where you blow up barrels or demolish cars.
There's even a multitask mode so you can watch something else while you squeeze the Ring-Con. I wasn't superfond of it, because the audio and physical feedback to let you know you performed the squeeze properly was a bit quiet.
Ring Fit Adventure proves that Nintendo's dedication to make gaming weird — and bring exercise to your console — is a very good thing. It's all fun and a nice way to get a sweat in, but I can typically burn more calories at the gym. For example, a 40-minute set on the elliptical burns more than twice as many calories (665 cal., according to my Apple Watch).
So, while Ring Fit Adventure can't replace traditional workouts, it's going to be a great option for me on those rainy days when I don't want to haul myself to the gym. I am awfully curious about how Ring and Dragaux keep things interesting for the game's 20 worlds.
And at $80, Ring Fit Adventure is 33% more expensive than most premium games, though its included equipment helps explain that difference. If you can get more than four months of serious workouts from Ring Fit Adventure, I'd say that's definitely worth it.